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UGCC Rationalist explanations for war by James D. Fearon.txt

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Department
Political Science
Course Code
POLI 244
Professor
Fernando Nunez- Mietz

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Rationalist explanations for war by James D. Fearon Outline: "On close inspection none of the rationalist arguments advanced in the literature holds up as an explanation because none addresses or adequately resolves the central puzzle, namely, that war is costly and risky, so rational states should have incentives to locate negotiated settlements that all would prefer to the gamble of war" (380). Why don't leaders reach "ex ante (prewar) bargains that would avoid the costs and risks of fighting?" It's not enough to show why armed conflict might happen, even between rational leaders--you must also show why a peaceful bargain won't happen first. This quotation from Gartze summaries Fearon's argument well: "Fearon seeks to identify the causes of war that are consistent with the rationality assumption(s). He begins with two stylized observations. First, states often have incentives to compete. Second, certain modes of competition (such as war) are more costly than other methods (negotiation, bargaining). For states that compete through war, the loss in lives and property reduces the benefit or increases the burden of eventual settlements. Therefore, states are better off obtaining a given settlement without a costly contest. Rationalist explanations for war are then accounts of why states are unable to bargain and obtain settlements ex ante for which they settle ex post. ... "Fearon's article deftly exposes the deductive flaws in realist and most contemporary rationalist explanations for international conflict. Fearon points out that, although both power and preferences are likely to influence the nature of settlements reached between competing parties, and in their absence can account for peace, such factors tell us little about why states choose to fight. Any variable likely to influence the conduct and consequences of war (such as power or resolve) that is knowable prior to the contest can simply be factored into a settlement that averts the need to fight. Indeed, even uncertainty about these variables does not necessitate war. States in competition must have incentives to bluff or deceive their opponents. Otherwise, states could resolve their uncertainty by simply sharing information." The Real Puzzle The puzzle that rationalists ought to be paying attention to is this: "In a rationalist framework...le
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